Sonny Bill Williams has announced that he will not return to New Zealand Rugby in 2014, according to Marc Hinton of the Waikato Times, electing instead to re-sign with the Sydney Roosters for one more year in rugby league's NRL. Williams turned down a three-year deal from the NZRU that would see him play for the Chiefs and most likely the All Blacks.
The week has been a controversial one for the superstar. After winning an NRL Premiership with the Roosters on Sunday, he took a U-turn on his decision not to represent New Zealand at the 2013 Rugby League World Cup. Just one day after the squad had been announced, Williams decided to make himself available and was included in the Kiwis side at the expense of 21-year-old Tohu Harris.
It was a move that has done Williams no favours in his bid to rebuild his reputation after walking out on the Canterbury Bulldogs NRL club in 2008.
Perhaps his change of heart came as a result of his decision to stick with rugby league after previously being unsure about his future.
Given that he has only signed a one-year deal, there still remains the possibility that he will return to New Zealand for the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
There is no doubt that he improved markedly in his time playing rugby union. His early career saw him look very much like a league player playing union, taking poor options and looking lost at various stages of the game.
While his offload was one of the biggest weapons in the game, he looked to use it every time, and it became too predictable. On top of this, when he came up against a strong opponent, he had a tendency to go into a shell, passing the ball on rather than attacking the line and drawing defenders.
He was included in the All Blacks 2011 World Cup winning side, but much of this was based on reputation, and in the crunch games he only played minor roles.
In 2012, though, it was clear that he was beginning to get a feel for the game, emerging as one of the star players of the Chiefs' championship winning Super 15 side. He had started taking the ball to the line dangerously and picking his moments to offload, making him that much more dangerous.
The five games he played for the All Blacks saw him look threatening, particularly in the Irish Test series in June. However, he was to leave once more midseason, taking up a deal in Japan before returning to the NRL for the 2013 season.
It was a shame to see him go, as he had shown great improvements and was just beginning to find his feet in the black jersey. But perhaps it is a good thing he has not come back this time.
While he is undoubtedly a talented player, he will never truly fulfill his potential unless he commits to one sport and takes the time to adapt to it. As we have seen over the past five years though, this really is not Williams' style. Why should he be re-signed for 2015 just to play in the World Cup? It may be a big event, but it really diminishes the All Black value of cherishing every Test match. Besides, there is no guarantee he will retain his old form anyway having been away for two years by that stage.
New Zealand has enough rugby union talent that is committed to the NZRU and the All Blacks in the long-term, and they should focus on them, rather than go out of their way to cater to Williams.
New Zealand rugby league on the other hand could do with a player of Williams' calibre, and he would be a massive boost to the Kiwis. Maybe this is where his best bet is.
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